Newport students to bring festive cheer to Bethlehem orphans

South Wales Argus: FESTIVE VISIT: From left; Tom Bond, Hannah Davies, Les Petrie, Sian Williams and Liz Coombes FESTIVE VISIT: From left; Tom Bond, Hannah Davies, Les Petrie, Sian Williams and Liz Coombes

STUDENTS from Newport's university are hoping their Christmas visit to Bethlehem will bring some festive cheer to Palestinian orphans.

Final year students Sian Williams and Hannah Davies, both 24, will be using the skills learned in their BA Hons Creative Therapies in Education course to help children traumatised by the conflict through art.

They will be joined by final year photography student Tom Bond, 25, course leader Les Petrie, 61, and music therapist and UWN lecturer Liz Coombes.

Liz Coombes, who went to Bethlehem in 2009 on a similar visit, paints a stark picture of the ordeals many Palestinian children go through: "The situation for a child living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is hard for us to imagine. Children regularly witness violence and the horrific injury or killing of friends and family members."

"An important factor contributing to a child’s recovery from these traumas is the opportunity for expression, attachment and trust that comes from stable, caring and nurturing relationships with adults.

"This therapy can provide the necessary tools to help achieve this.

The team will drive to Luton airport on Thursday 9th Dec and fly to Tel Aviv, then making their way to Bethlehem on the West Bank.

The group will be staying at the SOS Children’s Village and School, a complex for orphans in Bethlehem ran by orphan's organisation SOS children.

Mr Petrie said they didn't anticipate any problems getting across the border to the West Bank “as the situation is pretty stable at the moment.”

Mr Petrie adds the visit is a great opportunity not only to help the Palestinian children but to expand the students' skills. "A visit like this helps them to adapt to difficult circumstances and to show they can work anywhere."

The visit is a milestone for the School of Education as the students going to Bethlehem are among the first to complete the BA Hons degree in Creative Therapies; a course of which Mr Petrie says: "There is nothing like it the UK," adding "the school is set to become a centre for study of creative therapies in Wales and the West of England."

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